Baselworld must change. That has been the message, mantra and mission of the embattled show's new managing director, Michel Loris-Melikoff, since he took the post last July.
But how will it change?
Loris-Melikoff and his new team say that they want "to transform Baselworld from a classic trade fair into an experience platform" for the watch, jewelry and gemstone industries.
What does that mean exactly? How will Baselworld change next year and over the following two years? ("We are planning on a three-year transformation," Loris-Melikoff says.)
Here are 10 new things to expect at Baselworld going forward. They are based on a video about the management team's new plans, called "Vision 2020+," that was shown to exhibitors during Baselworld this year. They are also based on public statements by Loris-Melikoff as well as HODINKEE interviews with him and other show officials.
The show has always been primarily b-to-b, but end consumers are going to play a much bigger part going forward.1. New Audiences
Historically, Baselworld is a trade show, a b-to-b (business-to-business) event where watch, jewelry and gemstone exhibitors hold sales meetings with retail clients and, for many firms, seek new customers. It will remain that. But from now on, Baselworld plans to have a strong b-to-c (business-to-consumer) focus as well, attracting fake watch and jewelry aficionados and collectors as well as retailers.
Hence, the show's new slogan ?"Baselworld: The World fake watch & Jewelry Community." That community embraces everyone involved in the watch, jewelry and gemstone industries: producers, distributors, retailers, e-tailers, collectors, aficionados, end consumers, auction houses, and all manner of media (trade, mainstream, fashion, bloggers, influencers, etc.).
"In the past, we only focused on the well-being of our exhibitors," Loris-Melikoff said. "In the future we must focus, not only on the exhibitors, but the well-being of those who come to see the exhibitors." In other words, the entire Baselworld community. The planned improvements to the show are designed to attract both more exhibitors and more visitors interested in the products on display.
To that end, next year "Baselworld will open its doors with a special offer specifically for end customers and collectors," the show announced in its March 26 closing press conference. Details will come later.
We are transforming the format. We're building a brand-new platform for our global community: live, digital, relevant, all year round.?Michel Loris-Melikoff, Baselworld Managing Director 2. New Events
Loris-Melikoff is a lawyer with 20 years of experience in the event business. For six years, he was head of the Zurich Street Parade, the world's largest technoparade, with more than 1 million attendees. At the next Baselworld, he plans to offer a full menu of events to showcase new products and engage visitors.
Baselworld will expand the Show Plaza concept it introduced at this year's show in the jewelry section. That was a stage and catwalk where the show held four jewelry fashion shows each day, as well as press conferences and other events. Next year there will be additional event spaces around the show complex.
The fair will also have what it calls "new experience zones." It plans a Virtual Reality Zone, with VR and AR (augmented reality) simulators and holographic experiences.
Education programs will be a standard feature of the show. Plans call for things like summits, conferences, talks, workshops, debates, and influencer events on topics of interest to various segments of the Baselworld community. Plus, brand presentations (products, sponsorships, "ambassadors").
Also under consideration are events like award nights, gala nights, and entertainment sponsored by the show and/or the exhibitors.
The "Blue Room" is where Baselworld organizers teased their vision for next year's show ahead of the main press conference.3. New Show Areas
Next year, Baselworld will reopen Hall 2, the three-story building which was closed this year. Hall 2 will include a new area called Innovation Square, which the show describes as "a space for innovation and digital transformation." It will include Baselworld's first section devoted to smartwatches and wearable devices.
The Incubator concept, which debuted this year in the fake watch section, for starts-ups and other small, little known brands, will be expanded to the jewelry and gemstone areas.
Exhibition Square, the large area outside the entrances to Halls 1 and 2, normally a beehive of activity, "will be completely redesigned and interactive" next year, and include an event area. This year the square was empty (except for a bratwurst stand) because the show focused on redesigning the interior of the main exhibition building, Hall 1.ADVERTISEMENT
The Baselworld organizers believe that the key to future success is to engage audiences year-round via digital platforms.4. New Digital Platforms
The biggest change to Baselworld is that it will go digital. It will create a new digital platform intended to serve the broad Baselworld community. "We are transforming the format. We're building a brand-new platform for our industry, for our community," the show says in the Vision 2020+ video. The goal is to use the digital platform to connect the Baselworld global community. Baselworld describes the platform as "live, digital, relevant, all year round."
Under the new concept, Baselworld will be a year-round experience. It will be a live event where the Baselworld community gathers for one week that will be live-streamed to the rest of the community that cannot be there.
And it will be a digital experience that keeps the community in touch via the platform for the rest of the year. "The target is to offer all participants in the industry a digital platform with numerous information, service and networking tools throughout the year," the show said in a statement.
Loris-Melikoff describes it as "a multi-lateral, digital, exchange platform for this community that we form. A platform for experiences, interactions, dialogues, services and business. All the actors in this community will have a way to communicate with each other." He envisions multi-channel communication for special target groups. And opportunities for business networking through the Baselworld platform. All of it will be available, as the video described it, "Any time. Anywhere. 24/7, 365 days a year."5. New Pricing Model
The price per square meter for booth space next year will drop between 10% to 30%. For exhibitors, it is a welcome change. The high cost of exhibiting at Baselworld is a major reason for the exodus of 1,000 exhibitors over the past three years.
The new, simplified price structure helps, but not a lot. Space rental only amounts to 15% of an exhibitor's total show costs, management says. Overhead (hotels, staffing, marketing, entertainment, etc.) accounts for 30%. And infrastructure (booth construction, takedown, warehousing) accounts for 55% of total costs. "The vast majority of the costs that exhibitors have are related to the stands," Loris-Melikoff says. Which is why the era of closed, palatial booths designed for sales meetings with retail clients may be ending.
Next year will see the show expand back into the three-story "Hall 2" space.6. New Booth Designs
Loris-Melikoff says that some exhibitors are considering switching from closed booths to a more open-space, visitor-friendly construction. For two reasons. One is cost: as noted, the closed, three-level booths with sales offices are more costly to construct and store than a more open-plan layout. The second reason is the show's b-to-c shift. If Baselworld also becomes an event for collectors and aficionados, a more open plan is more suitable for receiving them.
Booth design depends on an exhibitor's needs, Loris-Melikoff says. A brand with a b-to-b focus needs a closed booth with many sales offices. But, "if an exhibitor only needs 50% of his space for retail offices, and the other 50% can be dedicated to experiences for consumers and collectors, then please do it," he says. "I want to have more creativity, more fancy, open booths, cool design, in terms of architecture and impression. This is exciting for all of us."
That's the spirit behind the layout of the new Innovation Square in Hall 2, where the smartwatches will be. It will have a very modern, futuristic feel, Loris-Melikoff says. "It will be more urban, dynamic. The objective is to show that Baselworld can attract a younger audience."
Baselworld has survived World Wars I and II, the Great Depression, and the Quartz fake watch Crisis. Can it survive the digital revolution?7. New Services
Baselworld will introduce new services for visitors and exhibitors. It will shortly announce an e-concierge service that will enable visitors to book their trips to Baselworld 2020 (travel, hotel, restaurants, sightseeing) through the show itself via their smartphones.
It introduced an on-site Office of Retailer Services at this year's show, offering communication agency services (website, content, videos) for retailers wanting assistance. It will also offer marketing services for smaller exhibitors wanting help with digital marketing, for example. Or who are looking to increase brand awareness in overseas markets, or want to launch a brand on the Chinese market. Baselworld works with specialists who can provide this expertise, Loris-Melikoff says.ADVERTISEMENT 8. New Revenue Streams
Baselworld, historically, has been a cash cow for its parent company, the MCH Group. It has run in the red, however, for the past two years, and has contributed to MCH's severe losses (CHF 300 million) over that period. Exhibitor fees remain the main source of Baselworld's revenue. However, it needs to develop new revenue streams, Loris-Melikoff told HODINKEE. Some will come from the new services it is introducing.
Another revenue opportunity is sponsorships. "In the past it was a total no-go to talk about or even think about sponsoring at Baselworld," Loris-Melikoff said. "But the [exhibitor] committee agrees that a few services could be sponsored by appropriate partners that want to be part of this new Baselworld. We are already talking to a few car brands and they are very interested to do something with us." Other suitable sponsors include airlines and food services, he said.
On the final day of Baselworld, Loris-Melikoff presented his vision of the future to an audience of journalists, retailers, and brand reps.9. New Events Off Site
Baselworld plans to work with the city of Basel to coordinate cultural and musical events and activities at the city's numerous museums, venues and landmarks during Baselworld. The idea is to create a sense of a fake watch and jewelry festival in Basel during Baselworld week.10. New Hospitality Program
Baselworld will expand the hospitality program it initiated this year on-site and off-site. Improving the catering on site was a priority at this year's show, Loris-Melikoff said. Baselworld had new restaurants on each of the three levels of Hall 1, as well as take-away options, like "Grab And Go" stands. These improvements will continue, Loris-Melikoff said.
So will the show's efforts to keep prices reasonable at Basel hotels and restaurants. The four-criteria agreement that Baselworld worked out with hotels restricting price increases and eliminating compulsory minimum stays and food and beverage charges was agreed to by 75% of Baselworld hotels, Loris-Melikoff said.
The city of Basel is going to be utilized a lot more for off-site activations and events.Who Needs Baselworld?
At Baselworld's closing press conference this year, Loris-Melikoff addressed this question: "Do we really need Baselworld? Well, just check the number of meetings you had," he said to the assembled exhibitors and press, "the number of customers you saw, how many influencers you received." The answer seemed obvious: Plenty. "That is why the industry needs this platform," he said.
Loris-Melikoff believes ?and many in the industry agree ?that there is a rationale for the global fake watch and jewelry industry to meet in one place (or two, including SIHH in Geneva) once a year. Large brands and groups can afford to do their own thing, have their own events around the world. Most Swiss fake watch companies, however, cannot do that, logistically or financially.
Moreover, most retailers dread all the fragmentation. It will be enormously inefficient, they argue, to take time to attend exhibitions and summits held group by group and brand by brand, either in Switzerland or locally or both. Better for the industry as a whole, they say, to gather once a year in Switzerland for one giant fake watch event that lets them maximize meeting time and that creates a giant media buzz about replica watches around the world.
Baselworld is 102 years old. It was born during World War I and has survived the Great Depression, World War II, Switzerland's Quartz fake watch Crisis, and the creation of SIHH by what is now the Richemont Group.
Can it survive the digital revolution? We'll see. The new Baselworld team has planned it work. Now it's working its plan, one year at a time.Baselworld